Traits across trophic levels interact to influence parasitoid establishment in biological control releases

Benjamin J.M. Jarrett, Marianna Szűcs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A central goal in ecology is to predict what governs a species’ ability to establish in a new environment. One mechanism driving establishment success is individual species’ traits, but the role of trait combinations among interacting species across different trophic levels is less clear. Deliberate or accidental species additions to existing communities provide opportunities to study larger scale patterns of establishment success. Biological control introductions are especially valuable because they contain data on both the successfully established and unestablished species. Here, we used a recent dataset of importation biological control introductions to explore how life-history traits of 132 parasitoid species and their herbivorous hosts interact to affect parasitoid establishment. We find that of five parasitoid and herbivore traits investigated, one parasitoid trait—host range—weakly predicts parasitoid establishment; parasitoids with higher levels of phylogenetic specialization have higher establishment success, though the effect is marginal. In addition, parasitoids are more likely to establish when their herbivore host has had a shorter residence time. Interestingly, we do not corroborate earlier findings that gregarious parasitoids and endoparasitoids are more likely to establish. Most importantly, we find that life-history traits of the parasitoid species and their hosts can interact to influence establishment. Specifically, parasitoids with broader host ranges are more likely to establish when the herbivore they have been released to control is also more of a generalist. These results provide insight into how multiple species’ traits and their interactions, both within and across trophic levels, can influence establishment of species of higher trophic levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere8654
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology

Free keywords

  • biological control
  • generalist
  • herbivore
  • host range
  • invasion biology
  • specialist


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